SSANGYONG THROWS DOWN BEAUT UTE CHALLENGE

Digital Fuel ProductionsSsangYong is going to great lengths, with one of the most spacious trays in class, to make an impression in the ute market. The new Musso XLV can be loaded up with 1262 litres weighing up to 1020 kg.

And just to show how serious the South Korean automobile maker is, SsangYong is aiming to expand to 50 dealers in Australia by the end of the year.

The new long wheelbase version of the Musso, according to the maker, combines high levels of safety, creature comforts, off-road performance and, last but certainly not least, a segment-leading carrying capacity.

“The Musso ute has been a hit with customers and critics since we launched it last year, but the demand for the long wheelbase version is unprecedented,” says SsangYong Australia managing director Tim Smith.

While not suggesting the new ute could match segment stars such as the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton, Smith feels confident it can hold its own in the most popular vehicle market in Australia.

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“Every dealer in our network is holding firm orders for XLV, with one customer putting down a deposit last year, the day we confirmed it was coming,” he says.

Built on the same platform as the Rexton and Musso, the XLV 4×4 pick-up comes in three grades – ELX, Ultimate and Ultimate Plus – and boasts body-on-frame construction providing a strong base for excellent off-road performance and safety from its structure and four-wheel drive system.

Standard equipment is comprehensive and includes safety features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot detection, front vehicle start alert and a 360-degree camera, as well as state-of-the-art infotainment that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity.

The new Musso XLV offers the choice of the same multi-link coil spring rear suspension as in the short wheelbase Musso or a new, heavy duty leaf spring. The leaf spring is on hand in the ELX, while Ultimate and Ultimate Plus versions are available only with the multi-link set-up.

SsangYong Musso ELX comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, heavy duty truck tyres and a maximum payload of 1020 kg. The Ultimate and Ultimate Plus boast 18-inch alloy wheels, and a payload of 800 kg.

No superhero star, the Musso XLV exhibits no-nonsense workman-like looks, failing to rely on little in the realm of shiny bits to attract attention, although a bold chrome strip across the radiator grille and the curves of the bonnet present a robust look and create the impression of strength.

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The shoulder wing grille – characteristic of all new SsangYong product – stretches to the headlights, while strong character lines to the side and rear, add a sense of power and volume to the vehicle.

The tub, fitted with a standard liner is big enough to take a Euro pallet. It also comes with 12V / 120W power outlets, and strap-down hooks.

The interior is no industrial workplace, the crew cab offering good levels of comfort and excellent shoulder and legroom, the rear capable of taking three blokes across. The ELX has fabric seats, the Ultimate adds endure-Lite heated and ventilated seats, while the Ultimate Plus adds powered leather seats with heating and venting.

All grades come standard with an infotainment system that includes an 8-inch HD screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity.

An instrument cluster with a 7-inch LCD screen on the Ultimate models provides the driver with information in a choice of presentations and visual effects to ensure maximum personalisation.

On a launch drive on bitumen and in the bush in Victoria, the star of the show turned out to be the Musso SsangYong XLV powertrain., which employs a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine manufactured by SsangYong, putting out 133 kW at 4000 rpm and torque of 420 Nm between 1600 and 2600 rpm in a surprisingly quiet manner for an oil burner.

The Aisin six-speed automatic had smooth performance. The six-speed manual, with its vague and lengthy sauntering between cogs, was regrettably beyond its best-by date.

The car’s 4WD system draws on SsangYong’s years of experience in all-wheel-drive features part-time 4×4 with power delivered permanently to the rear wheels, and front wheel drive ‘dialled in’ electronically as required.

High and low ratios are available as on and off-road conditions demand.

One unscheduled incident during the launch drive in the bush on a particularly wet and steep downhill section resulted in the vehicle failing to take a sharp bend when it didn’t respond to the driver’s wishes to change direction.

The ‘off’ was most probably the result of the vehicle wearing road tyres, rather than off-road rubber, which failed to grip in the sloppy going.

There were no such problems during the on-road work, the Musso XLV handled with aplomb, taking all road conditions in its stride in all versions. Both road and engine noise intrusion into the cabin was all-but absent.

It will be interesting to see how both suspensions behave under varying loads at some time in the future.

Ssangyong Musso offers excellent value for money. The XLV manual is on offer from $33,990, the auto version $35,990. The Ultimate starts at $39,990, the Ultimate Plus $43,990. All prices are driveaway. Options are 20-inch alloys and sunroof for the Ultimate Plus only.

All Musso XLVs come with SsangYong’s seven-year / unlimited-kilometre warranty, plus seven years roadside assist.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL LINE-UP
SsangYong Musso XLV ELX: $33,990 (manual), $35,990 (automatic)
SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate $39,990 (automatic)
SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate Plus $43,990 (automatic)
Note: These are drive-away prices.

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